John Magnet Bell is a writer, translator and blogger, and many of you already frequent his blog, “Start Your Novel.” This is the first writer-prompt site I ever discovered and I find his philosophy refreshing: “an adventure in open-source storytelling.” John freely gives away his ideas and encourages writers to run with them.
“Go wild,” he says. “I have tons of ideas. Why keep them all to myself?”
You will be amazed at his terrific prompts.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting John online and, carrying his generosity forward, he agreed to write a guest post for “Creative Flux”—the intriguing “You Hate to Love Them, But You Can’t Help Yourself.” Then, last month he honored me with a request to fill the opening spot in his new author interview series “5 Questions.” I extend my thanks to you, John, for your friendship and the opportunity to be a part of your community. You can check out my interview here.
Now, what some of you may not know is that John is also a published photographer. His work on Flikr demonstrates impressive talent and remarkable imagination. A number of his fine works—my favorites—are included below, along with a brief Q&A of his creative process.
Click here to view his entire portfolio.
Q & A
What are the roots of your images?
In a nutshell… Eastern Bloc and Canadian animation. I was brought up on that stuff. It was (and is) far richer, in visual terms, than most commercial western cartoons. So three cheers for NFB-funded shorts, I say.
I didn’t fully realize it back then, but those short films, many of which did without any form of spoken language, were planting multiple seeds in me, the seeds of a visual vocabulary. As an adult, I came to enjoy the visually challenging work of the brothers Quay and their own idol, Jan Svankmajer. Thanks to YouTube you can now see plenty of their work online. I recommend Svankmajer’s tma/svetlo/tma (Darkness/Light/Darkness), it’s a wonderful little piece.
No less important was my mother’s influence. She earned a degree in Art History, so I always had access to art books. I was entranced by color-plate reproductions of Max Ernst’s paintings before I even knew what “oil painting” meant. There were also these Art Nouveau prints around the house which made quite an impression on me.
Why do you create them?
I need to. Can’t always explain why. Every human being has access to a part of themselves where verbal language breaks down and only symbols will manifest themselves. Some of us have a window on that landscape, others have a door and can step through it. (Max Ernst and Dali certainly had doors; contemporary painters Judson Huss and Siegfried Zademack have doors of their own, too.)
Stepping through that door and walking out into the unknown is exciting. You find unexpected things about your inner world. The joys of exploration — they’re the reason anyone creates anything, I guess.
What are the digital/traditional processes you use in creating your work?
More often than not, it’s a simple process. I keep a sketchpad on my nightstand. Sometimes I’ll have an odd dream or an image will… assault me. I sketch it roughly just so I won’t forget the concept, and save it for later, whenever I have time to work on it.
Once I have the concept, there comes the part where I either shoot stock for it, or go through the library for material I can use in my collage. Most of my pictures are photographic manipulations, after all. When I finally have all the assets I sit at the computer, fire up Photoshop and move this bit here, that bit over there, resize a thing or two, mask a bit, darken a bob. You know. Like the cut-and-paste you do in grade school, only slightly more time-consuming.
John Magnet Bell is a translator, photographer and blogger with an MA in Comparative Literature. He intends to write 5,000 copyright-free story prompts and post them on his blog, Start Your Novel.
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